Tennis star Zheng Qinwen makes history

2024-01-26 08:37:32China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Tennis star Zheng Qinwen made history on Thursday and became the second Chinese woman to reach a Grand Slam singles final with a straight-set semifinal win over Dayana Yastremska at the Australian Open.

Zheng's inspirational victory, cheered on by an enthusiastic Chinese crowd at the Rod Laver Arena, was achieved on the exact 10th anniversary of retired legend Li Na's second major win at the 2014 Aussie Open on the same court, sparking a wild celebration from the local Chinese community in Melbourne as well as fervent fans at home.

Having secured a top-10 place next week on the WTA rankings with her deep run Down Under, Zheng, who is currently ranked No 15, will challenge No 2 seed and defending champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus in Saturday's final for her maiden career Grand Slam trophy.

It was Sabalenka who stopped Zheng in their only previous meeting in quarterfinals at last year's US Open in September.

Despite opening the match and struggling with her first serve at times, Zheng, who is playing only her third main draw tournament in Melbourne, quickly regained her focus, dictating the play with her powerful serve and strong forehand shots to seal a 6-4, 6-4 victory against unseeded Yastremska of Ukraine in an hour and 42 minutes.

"It feels unbelievable. I am super excited to have such a great performance today and reach the final," Zheng said in her post-match interview with red flags flying high on the stand at the iconic central court.

"I think my opponent, she's playing unbelievable tennis and has a really good baseline stroke. It's tough to express my feelings now."

At just 21 years old, Zheng has carved out quite an impressive upwards trajectory since turning pro in 2020, taking road trips to entry-level ITF tournaments across Europe as the tennis world slowly came out of the pandemic's impact.

In 2022, she made her Grand Slam main draw debut right at the Aussie Open, yet had never went beyond the second round at the previous two editions until leaving the tennis world in awe with her amazing run this fortnight.

Zheng became the fourth player born in 2002 or later to reach a Grand Slam final, following 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu, 2021 US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez and Coco Gauff, the 2023 US Open champion and 2022 Roland Garros runner-up. It is the fifth tour-level final of her career; Zheng's record in the previous four is an even 2-2.

"We've been working really hard. We've been putting a lot of effort on the tennis court, also outside it in treatment and fitness (training). It's the little details that help everyday. Thanks again to my team. I can't do it without you guys," Zheng said of her team's support for helping her achieve one of the fastest rises in women's tennis in recent years.

She also took time to appreciate the vocal support from local Chinese fans waving her posters while flying China's national flags at the arena to cheer her up on late Thursday night.

"Thank you so much for all the Chinese friends showing up today. Thanks for the encouragement. The red flags over the stand looked really beautiful. Happy New Year to all of you!" she said.

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